BETHEL — When Arthur Vassmer woke the first day of Woodstock in 1969, all he could see were cars.
“Nothing was moving,” said Heather Brown, granddaughter of “Mr. Woodstock.” “It was just a parking lot.”
When he opened Vassmer’s General Store that day on Route 55 in Kauneonga Lake, 100 people immediately flooded in.
The store was just three miles from the concert site in Bethel.
“He’s passed down some great stories through his family and I plan to continue to share those stories,” Brown said. “I think that we need that today. People need to know that people are good and people are kind and they do want to help each other.”
Now 50 years later, Brown will share what those days were like as a volunteer tour guide for what will be the only way members of the public can visit the Woodstock monument at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts this weekend without concert tickets.
To be permitted on the Bethel Woods campus between Thursday and Sunday, every vehicle must have a travel pass and every occupant in the vehicle must have a concert ticket.
However, Bethel Woods, the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association and the county have partnered to provide free bus rides to the monument on those days.
Anyone interested can park at the Monticello Raceway on Route 17B or 4296 Route 55 in Swan Lake and hop on a bus.
Each ride is expected to take between 60 and 90 minutes round-trip depending on traffic, including 30 minutes at the monument.
Brown said Vassmer, who’s featured in the 1970 documentary about the festival titled “Woodstock,” did what he could to feed the “kids.”
“He always called them the kids,” Brown recalled. “It didn’t matter how old they were.”
Everyone cooperated and formed a line and cleared a path so deliveries could make it to the store, Brown said.
During the festival, Vassmer, who died in 1997, took bank deposits across Kauneonga Lake by boat.
How Vassmer treated the “kids” stuck with them because, they kept coming back every year, according to Brown, who worked in the family-run store while growing up.
Some people came back later to pay back their debts. One person handed Brown $50 because her grandfather loaned him $10 in 1969 and he wanted to pay it back with interest.
“For a bunch of upstate New York small town community members, they really came together and helped out the kids that really needed to get fed,” Brown said.